Shanghai Rice Cakes Recipe (Chao Nian Gao) 

 Last Update April 19, 2024

By Jenny Zhang

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Food has an incredible way of connecting people to their cultural heritage, providing a taste of the past and a window into traditions. Among the myriad culinary delights that have stood the test of time, Shanghai Rice Cake, also known as Chao Nian Gao, holds a special place in Chinese cuisine. With its chewy texture and subtle sweetness, this delectable treat has been enjoyed for generations during Chinese New Year celebrations and other occasions.

Chao Nian Gao stands out from the rest due to its distinct texture and irresistible flavor. The rice cake is soft, chewy, and slightly sticky, making it a delightful experience for your taste buds. The versatility of this dish allows for countless preparations, inviting the exploration of various flavors. From savory options like pork, shrimp, and vegetables to sweet variations like red bean paste or brown sugar, there's a Chao Nian Gao recipe to suit every palate.

Below, I will show you the step-by-step process of making Chinese rice cake stir fry from scratch so you can savor its irresistible taste in the comfort of your kitchen.

Shanghai Style Stir Fried Rice Cakes

Prep Time
10 minutes

Cook Time
15 minutes

Rest Time
0 minutes

Total Time
25 minutes

  • Cooking Method: Stir Frying
  • Cuisine: Chinese
  • Servings: 4
  • Calories: 507
  • Courses: Main Dish
  • Best Season: Any


  • 1 pound (450g) raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 Cups Napa Cabbage Sliced
  • 2 cups Shanghai rice cake (Chao Nian Gao), sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 Cup Alba Mushroom
  • 1 Cup Maitake Mushroom
  • 1/2-1 Bunch of Broccolini
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce or vegetarian oyster sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 green onions sliced (for garnish)


1. Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat in a large non-stick pan or wok. Add the minced garlic and sauté it for approximately 30 seconds until it becomes aromatic.

2. Add the sliced vegetables (Napa cabbage, broccolini, mushrooms) into the pan and stir-fry them for 2-3 minutes until they begin to tenderize.

3. Gently push the vegetables to one side of the pan and allocate space on the other side to add the shrimp. Allow the shrimp to cook for 2-3 minutes until they transform into a pink hue and are thoroughly cooked.

4. Add the sliced Shanghai rice cake to the pan and stir-fry everything together for another 2-3 minutes, ensuring that the rice cake is well coated with the flavors from the shrimp and vegetables.

rice cake

5. Combine the soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, and white pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle this sauce mixture over the ingredients in the pan and continue stir-frying for an additional 1-2 minutes until everything is thoroughly blended and heated through.

rice cake 2

6. Sample the dish and make any necessary adjustments to the seasoning, incorporating more soy sauce or sugar to align with your personal preference.

7. Sprinkle the dish with sliced green onion for garnish and give it a final toss to ensure the flavors are well distributed.

8. Transfer the shrimp Shanghai rice cake to a serving plate or individual bowls, and it's ready to be enjoyed!

Chinese Stir Fried Rice Cake

Tips & Notes

Preparing the rice cake: If using store-bought rice cakes, slice it into bite-sized pieces. For dried rice cakes, immerse them in warm water for approximately 30 minutes or until they achieve a soft and pliable consistency. It's crucial to separate the rice cake slices to avoid them sticking together. In the case of frozen rice cakes, there is no need to thaw them in advance.

Cook shrimp until just pink: Exercise caution to avoid overcooking the shrimp, as they may become rubbery. Cook them until they reach a pink color and are no longer translucent, ensuring they are cooked to perfection.

Stir-fry in high heat: Stir-frying in a hot pan or wok helps maintain the ingredients' texture and flavors. Before adding the oil and ingredients, ensure that your pan is adequately heated.

Nutritional Facts

Nutrition Facts

Servings: 4



% Daily Value*

Total Fat 9.5g


Saturated Fat 1.3g


Cholesterol 239mg


Sodium 2057mg


Total Carbohydrate 73.4g


Dietary Fiber 3.5g


Total Sugars 13.2g

Protein 37.2g

Vitamin D 63mcg


Calcium 155mg


Iron 1mg


Potassium 426mg


*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.

Experiment with other ingredients: Feel free to add your favorite vegetables or adjust the recipe to your taste. You can incorporate other ingredients like baby bok choy, snow peas, or baby corn to enhance the flavor and texture of the dish.

Serve immediately: Rice cakes are best enjoyed when it's hot and fresh. Serve it right away to maintain its chewy texture and flavors.

What is Shanghai Rice Cake

Shanghai rice cake, also known as Chao Nian Gao 炒 年糕, is a traditional Chinese dish that originated in Shanghai, China. It is a type of rice cake made primarily from glutinous rice flour, with additional ingredients and flavorings added to create a delicious and unique culinary experience.

The term "Chao" in Chao Nian Gao refers to the cooking technique used in its preparation, which involves stir-frying the rice cake. This technique gives Chinese rice cakes their distinct texture and flavor. The rice cake is soft, chewy, and slightly sticky, making it a delightful treat for food enthusiasts.

Shanghai Rice Cake has its roots in ancient China and is deeply intertwined with Chinese New Year traditions. Nian Gao, meaning "sticky cake," is associated with prosperity and good luck, making it a staple during the festive season. Over time, it has become a beloved treat, enjoyed not only during Lunar New Year but also throughout the year.

Making Shanghai rice cake requires just a few key, straightforward, and essential ingredients. The main components include glutinous rice flour, water, and sugar. However, some variations incorporate additional ingredients such as red bean paste, Chinese dates, or even savory elements like bacon. These variations allow for a delightful range of flavors to suit different palates.

How to store leftovers

When dealing with leftovers, storing them in an airtight container in the refrigerator is advisable. However, bear in mind that the texture of the rice cake might undergo slight changes when reheated. Reheat gently in a pan with a little oil or steam to preserve its chewiness.

How to elevate Shanghai rice cake dish

Add additional flavors

Enhance the taste profile of your Shanghai rice cake by incorporating additional flavors. Add ingredients such as ginger, garlic, chili, or Chinese five-spice powder to the stir-fry. These ingredients will infuse the dish with aromatic and bold flavors.

Experiment with sauces

While Shanghai rice cake traditionally incorporates soy sauce and oyster sauce, don't hesitate to experiment with alternative sauces to introduce depth and complexity to the dish. Try incorporating hoisin sauce, black bean sauce, or chili sauce to give your dish a unique twist.

Incorporate umami-rich ingredients

Boost the umami factor in your Shanghai rice cake by adding ingredients like dried shiitake mushrooms, Chinese cabbage, dried shrimp, or Chinese sausage. These ingredients will contribute rich and savory flavors that complement the rice cake beautifully.

Play with textures

To enhance the appeal of your dish, introduce contrasting textures that add an intriguing element. Consider incorporating crunchy vegetables such as water chestnuts or bamboo shoots to elevate the overall experience. You can also top the stir-fried rice cake with toasted sesame seeds or crushed peanuts for a delightful crunch.

Explore different protein options

While shrimp is a popular choice, you can switch up the protein in your Shanghai rice cake dish. Try using thinly sliced chicken breast, thin slices of beef, or tofu as alternatives. Marinate the protein in flavorful sauces or spices before stir-frying for an extra burst of flavor.

Experiment with fusion flavors

If you're feeling adventurous, try incorporating fusion flavors into your Shanghai rice cake dish. Experiment with ingredients from other cuisines, such as Thai basil, curry powder, or Korean gochujang sauce, to create a fusion twist that tantalize your taste buds.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I use fresh rice cake instead of dried rice cake?

Yes, fresh rice cake is a common choice for making Shanghai stir-fried rice cake. Fresh rice cake is softer and doesn't require pre-soaking like dried rice cake. However, if you prefer dried rice cake, soak it beforehand to soften it.

How do I prevent the rice cake from sticking to the pan?

To prevent the rice cake from sticking to the pan, it is crucial to ensure that your pan or wok is adequately greased before adding the ingredients. Use enough oil to coat the pan, and keep the heat at a medium-high level to stir-fry the rice cake quickly and evenly.

Can I customize the ingredients in Shanghai stir-fried rice cake?

Absolutely! Shanghai stir-fried rice cake offers versatility, allowing for customization based on individual preferences. You can add various vegetables like bell peppers, carrots, or mushrooms, as well as protein options such as shrimp, pork, or chicken. Make adjustments to the seasoning and sauces based on your personal taste preferences.

How do I soften Shanghai rice cake if it's too hard?

If the Shanghai rice cake is too hard, you can soak it in warm water for about 30 minutes to soften it before cooking. Ensure that you separate the rice cake slices to prevent them from sticking together.

Is Shanghai stir-fried rice cake gluten-free?

Shanghai stir-fried rice cake can be gluten-free if the ingredients used are gluten-free. However, it's important to check the labels of store-bought rice cakes and sauces to ensure they are gluten-free. If making the rice cake from scratch, make sure to use gluten-free rice flour. Aside from rice cakes, also be sure to use gluten-free oyster sauce and other sauces. 

How to make Shanghai rice cake vegan friendly?

By ensuring that the rice cake, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce are vegan-friendly, you can create a delicious vegan version of Shanghai rice cake. This dish maintains its characteristic chewy texture and flavorful stir-fried goodness while being suitable for a vegan diet.

Where Can you get Asian rice cakes?

Local Asian grocery stores are the best place to find a wide variety of Asian rice cakes. They usually have a dedicated section for rice products and will likely carry different types of rice cakes, including Shanghai rice cakes.

Jenny passionately advocates a holistic and natural approach to health and well-being. She has a Bachelor of Science degree and years of working in food sciences, specializing in organic & natural products. She is committed to helping others embrace a balanced, natural lifestyle that fosters well-being. Jenny believes that a harmonious balance between nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness is the key to unlocking the full potential of one’s well-being.